With nine days to go before polling, the Institute of Fiscal Studies pronounced that not one of the three main parties seeking our votes was being sufficiently explicit about how they would tackle the black hole in public finances. The introductory remarks by Robert Chote are backed up by a wealth of analysis from other IFS speakers. But the overall point is the same: the gap in Britain's public finances is matched only by the gap in credibility displayed by the major parties in how they would cut the deficit.
Political parties do not tend to write manifestos that are too honest about what they would do if elected to office. Labour learned their lesson well and truly in 1992 when the late John Smith's Shadow budget proposals were rather too open about what would happen if John Major's Government were not re-elected.
So we now have obfuscation, evasion and less than transparent answers to awkward questions. The Labour Government should have had a spending review in advance of the election. They haven't because presumably the outcome would have been a sure-fire vote loser. Whoever takes over now will need to move pretty swiftly to fix budgets for the three year period from 2011/12 or the uncertainty around public finance will only increase. Whilst Labour are culpable neither the Tories nor the Liberal Democrats have offered us any real clues as to what they would do. No-one can object to more efficiency (Tories), or bearing down on tax cheats (LibDems), so that's where, we are told, the savings will be found. How is trust to be restored to political life if our leaders or would-be leaders cannot be honest about the difficult decisions they intend to take?
The latest slew of opinion polls suggest that maybe David Cameron is recovering some of the ground lost when the Nick Clegg bandwagon began to roll after the first televised leaders' debate. At 36% the Tories have a solid led over both Lib Dems (29%) and Labour (28%). But even at that level this is hardly a bandwagon, let alone a would-be landslide.
We are told that coalition government or hung parliaments make for weak and indecisive administrations. But how democratic is it that a party with barely one third of those voting (and probably less than a quarter of those eligible to vote) can be said to have a clear mandate. If the Lib Dems surge says anything it is perhaps that more representative Government comes from more than one party having a say in running the country. And after the expenses scandal perhaps it is better to have two-party government so that one lot can keep an eye on the other...........